Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Mummy Skills for Your CV

Until yesterday, I believed that motherhood hadn't really enhanced my skill-set, that everything I did for my children didn't add much (except for the, ahem, wonderful sense of happiness that their smiling faces gives me ... Hahahaha!)

Dealing with spills of bodily fluids isn't a nice part of life, whether it be at home, work or out in public. As a mother, it's basically a thing that happens multiple times a day from the moment of birth, you learn to just manage the fall-out and move on (usually with baby puke on yor shoulder and toddler lunch wiped on your jeans). 

... Really hope it's not just me....

Anyway, vomit and wee happened, and I reacted instinctively, suddenly, I started delegating, and I just knew the way to help the person with minimal fuss and disruption. This is definitely because I'm a mum, I could have handled it 4 years ago but this felt natural. I'm very proud of myself!

Have you noticed any new skills through being a parent? 

Please note: I still can't multitask, I don't like cooking with a child hugging my legs and I most certainly never learned to eat whilst holding a baby - MrB did that, he is amazing (but not available for hire). 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Losing your voice and finding it again - Striking Mums

1. Have you lost your voice? When and how did that happen? 

I lost my voice when my mental health took a turn for the worse, I stopped contacting friends, withdrew into myself and avoided contact with strangers. I was on social media, surrounded by the happiness of others and I had nothing to add to the mix. 

2. How do you use your voice? Are you using it for yourself, your family and/or a good cause?

I use my voice now to be open and honest about my depression, I announced my post natal depression to a selection of my Facebook friends  - which was really a selfish thing to do, simply so that I could share with any people who might ask and avoid any awkwardness on my part. 

A voice doesn't have to be heard for the message to be sent, the online environment is amazing - the #pndfamily on twitter as well as the hashtags enable me to send kind words to other people with similar feelings and in similar situations. Even though we live hundreds of miles apart and all we have physically in common is Twitter, we use our voices and our unique insights.

3. Is there anyone in your life who would prefer you to stay quiet? Why would they want that to happen?

My husband would prefer for me to talk less, I'm sure. For a bit of peace and quiet - I'm quite the chatterbox... Genuinely. 

Perhaps, sometimes, we don't need words to express how we feel - and I'm learning the art of hugs. 

4. Whose voice do you miss most and why?

I'm not sure how to answer this question, I miss happy Me, the internal monologue who was positive, didn't make me feel bad when I'm in the staff room at lunchtime... Narcissistic? Perhaps a little, but mental illness teaches you about yourself and if you know yourself, you can be more comfortable with who you are and spending time on your own. 

5. What do you need to speak up about? Who to? What support do you need to help you do that?

I have started back at work this week - I enjoy my job because I get to use my voice to help people to understand their illness, the treatment and its side effects. But also talking to them in a holistic way - seeing the person, not just their diagnosis. 

I have started back on a phased return as arranged my my GP, Occupational Health Dr and my Managers. This phased return should help support me through getting back up to speed at work, and help me to learn when to stand back. As part of this, I need to accept and embrace the fact that my job requires some level of delegation - using my voice to say, 'no, I can't do that right now', and 'please could you do this for me?'  

CBT will help me too,  teaching me to spot unhelpful thinking styles and how to rationalise when those nasty thoughts of  depression creep into my head. 

6. Is your inner voice helping or hindering you?

My inner voice has grown up over the last 3 months - it has moved from being desperately sad, empty and self-loathing to only being sad, optimistic and occasional self loathing. This is a HUGE ACHIEVEMENT - and one which I will continue to work on in my therapy sessions. 

Kate on thin Ice Striking Mums

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

recovery isn't all happiness - a sad post

This afternoon has been a flipping shambles. We went to ikea, E was being a bit giddy and we went along with it. That's fine. I noticed that he was giving MrB a run around the lighting department so I walked over to their direction, didn't say anything and thought I looked positive. I also had the buggy, and thought he could put E into it if he was fed up. 

Apparently, I ran across the lighting department (with a buggy? If you have been into an ikea light section, you will know that the clutter completely prevents running with a pram).

Apparently I had a face on me.

Apparently, I behaved in a way which looked like I was being judgmental. 

I was just standing there, offering a silent, non-judgmental pair of hands and a restraining mechanism for the troublesome tot. 

I know I'm a control freak, and my tone of voice can be really out of order when I don't mean it to be. So I stayed quiet. 

I know that when I'm struggling, an extra pair of hands would be greatly appreciated. 

I wasn't even thinking about how none of that shizzle goes down when it's just me and the little boys in there. Now, I'm not suggesting for one second that I'm better off alone, but I was being kind, and it was basically ignored. 

I hate this, I hate depression, I hate the way it makes me feel, I hate the way it makes be behave, I hate the way it makes me feel about the people I love and distorts my perceptions. I hate it all. I hate that nothing seems to make me happy anymore. 

I hate that I can't feel love for anyone unless I'm having a cuddle. That is shit. I'm sorry to swear, but it's the worst F-ing thing about Sertraline. 

I can take heavy sleep, I can take feeling mentally slow and stupid, I can take the sexual dysfunction and headaches, but being unable to 'feel love' is crippling.

I'm sorry that I can't be strong enough all of the time, I'm sorry that I can't be kind to myself this afternoon, I'm sorry that I am so sad that I can't even face doing a CBT exercise to make me feel better. 

Happy bloody Wednesday, all. 

(See you for pndhour though)

Saturday, 13 September 2014

PND Letter - Back to Work

Dear Caroline,

It's September, the month of new beginnings for many parents - school years still seem more important than the actual year, don't they, even 11 years after leaving the education system. 

You start back at work tomorrow, for what will hopefully be the rest of your career, without any more long-term sickness absence. Let's be realistic, things will happen, children get ill and those little germ factories bring those bugs home with them. 

Roughly 12 weeks of being signed off sick with Post Natal Depression (GP has actually written Recurrent Depressive Disorder, but the day to day reality is the same).  Started with nagging guilt, that you should have been at work, didn't need time to get better, that being at work would help. In your case, at that time, you needed a break from everything but the one thing that you could pause was work. People said, 'get yourself better' but it was just words until a chance Mental Health Monday twitter chat revealed that the guilt needed to be forgotten, and the need for a break put into perspective. 

You have got better, you are getting better. It's slow, sometimes there isn't much change but there is something: my mood tracking app shows that bad days aren't 'terrible', merely 'bad'.  The PMDD seems to have settled, night settling when flying solo isn't the huge angry-catastrophe it used to feel like. 

You're scared: scared of interacting with colleagues, scared what people think, scared about the social anxiety and the feelings of self-loathing that bubble under the surface when you sit in the staff room for lunch. 

Stop. Don't be scared, it's normal to worry about a return to work. Even after a week's holiday it's normal to feel that 'back to work' dread. It's ok to be scared if all of those things. You're catastrophising, mind reading and making predictions. 

You're starting really slowly, 2 hours. Those 2 hours will hold very little pressure, very little responsibility and hopefully entail some of the lovely things I value so much in my line of work. Patient contact, thinking, and basically doing things that don't involve the boys, feeling sorry for myself or housework (or my guilt for being too lazy to do said housework). 

Yes, I'll be anxious, people are entitled to think what they wish and what people think (or don't think) is none of my business. 

I love my job, and I have beaten one episode of depression while I stayed in work. I had about 3 years when I was finishing my recovery process and fully better where I called in sick, perhaps twice. This is hope. This is a fact. Work has helped you to beat depression before and it will help now, starting now. 

Remember the grinding and stifling sense of anxiety? That's not anywhere near as awful as it was, you can handle anxiety thanks to sertraline. 

You are going to be great, work is going to be great, and if it isn't...? If all your worst fears come true and it's the worst day at work you have ever had... Well, it's only 2 hours. Easy peasy. 

The one thing you need to do is, look out for yourself. Plan some self-care techniques. Come up with a new plan, as CBT isn't going to last forever so you need a robust plan for helping to weed out those negative automatic thoughts and those unhelpful thinking styles

So practise what you preach, all the kind words you give out on Twitter and to friends... Extend them to yourself. That's what this letter is for.

Everything is going to be ok. 

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but little by little, week by week. 

Caroline: mum, wife, friend, therapy radiographer. 

This is inspired and written for the #pndletters series - if you haven't seen the blog of the Nervous PND Sufferer, please check it out. 

Cuddly Crochet: A Striking Mums Post

Earlier in the year, I taught myself to crochet. I've knitted for several years, and I'm not especially good at it but I can make scarves and the odd toy. This post is about my crocheting journey and I don't usually give tips, but crochet seems to be increasing in popularity, so I have added some advice and links to help any aspiring hookers.

Anyway, my PND was worsening so I learned to crochet - I decided to learn amigurumi first (it's basically a 1 stitch technique, where you crochet in a constant spiral). Pinterest was always full of this thing called amigurumi and I enjoy new challenges, I'm not especially artistic but I make up for that with my enthusiasm. I used YouTube and Pinterest to watch tutorials and read information - I'll pop some links at the bottom if you want to learn but have bit a wall or just don't know where to start. 

My first project looked TERRIBLE 

This is a small white Totoro, made using the pattern by Lucy Ravenscar and it looks nothing like it!! But E was happy, so I persevered and have now made a LOT of toys (blankets, gifts...)

I get my patterns from Pinterest and Ravelry (I never buy patterns, there is usually no need) and I frequent my local wool shop and Hobbycraft!

I've even made a few toys of my own design, this is Little Owl from A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton 

If you are just starting out, I'd say to get a cheap set of aluminium hooks off ebay, you can get about 8 for the price of 1 in a shop (and slippery hooks are easier for crochet ... Unlike in knitting where a slippery needle means dropped stitches).

This beginners guide ebook at fresh stitches was an amazing help in the basics of understanding an amigurumi pattern (it may as well have been Japanese until inread this).

This is just a page which converts English to US crochet terminology - I have no idea why there are different names for the same stitch!!
This is a handy YouTube video http://youtu.be/eqca00LdmAc

If it takes a while to pick it up, do persevere. It took me ages to figure out my own way - I crochet the wrong way round... With my hook in my left hand. If it feels comfortable, you'll be fine!

I love crocheting, I love that there is so much still to learn and that it's just a few clicks away on the internet. I also love making things for my family (though my husband is probably a bit fed up of all the crocheted tat filling up the boys' bedrooms).  The happiness that I feel and observe when I hand them a new toy, or they cuddle something I've made all day, is just lovely. I'm so glad that I invested my 'baby free' time into this lovely and hopefully lifelong hobby!

Kate on thin Ice Striking Mums


Saturday, 6 September 2014

peri-natal depression - how hormones screwed me over

I've never been the type of gal who felt broody, I don't know if it was having 5 younger brothers and sisters or if it's just my personality, but I just never felt the need that some women seem to have. This aside, me and MrB always planned to have a couple of kids, we had been together for a long time and it felt like the obvious thing to do - clearly we took our freedom, incomes and careers for granted!!

I got pregnant after 6 months, not bad really. Took me ages to notice, I was texting MrB about how weird it was that I felt sick a lot and then it dawned on me, a couple of weeks later. Oops!

It hit me like an ACME anvil does Wyle E. Coyote. I stopped functioning, I was pleased that our respective zygotes worked, but a new feeling emerged over the next 3 weeks, fear of impending doom.

Fear of childbirth, loss of freedom, loss of my figure, the awful morning sickness (borderline hyperemesis gravidarum), isolation/ terrible relations with my mum, worries about the huge impending responsibilities. 

I woke up one morning and had a panic attack - my first in at least 2 years, and I had been 'non-depressed' and pretty resilient in my life for at least 2 years as well. I was about 7/8 weeks pregnant. I went to my GP and he asked me to wee in a pot. Whaaaaaaat?!? 

Well actually, I did have a UTI which could have exacerbated my anxiety symptoms. But my anxiety wasn't helped by the antibiotics. 

I didn't enjoy being pregnant but on the flip side, i felt immense guilt at not enjoying pregnancy. I was jealous of other women who looked so happy, who weren't the skinniest they had been in 13 years at 16 weeks pregnant, who could eat actual food, enjoy walking without PGP (which started at 8 weeks too!!). 

I was entitled to hate the way that pregnancy made me feel, I was depressed. Incapable of being nice, tactful or truly happy, I was miserable. 

It may not be normal, or socially acceptable, but hating pregnancy is ok, don't apologise for your feelings (but do try to be nice to those around you, especially those you love. Those who often bear the brunt of a crummy day.

Morning Snuggles - The Ordinary Moments

As a mum of two, one thing I really love is the opportunity to snuggle with just one of the boys - E has quiet time while N naps in the afternoon so I end up feeling like N and me need time together. Then, it dawned on me... 


N wakes up (usually) about half an hour before E, so in that time we might play, read books, or watch TV together if I am groggy (thanks Sertraline). However we spend the time, it's lovely. He has that gorgeous joie de vivre that toddlers have first thing in the morning - it's probably the closest I'll ever get to feeling like a member of One Direction. The sheer happiness when I walk into his room is magical. 

I used to dread the sounds of N waking up, when I was deep in the darkness of PND, my heart would sink. I was gutted to have to muster up energy for another day. Now I'm recovering, I'm not exactly raring to go at 6am, but I can appreciate this ordinary, lovely, gorgeous, daily moment with my youngest mini human. 

mummy daddy me


Friday, 5 September 2014

Striking Mums – stand out as the individual you are

This is my first ever linky and it's for Striking Mums (via Kate on Thin Ice - I've only just noticed the pun!). Sadly, it isn't about starting a picket line on the pavement outside your house, 'no more washing', 'get your own crackers'. More of a help yourself and others towards self help and a bit of blowing your own trumpet. 

 The title of this post really hit me and stuck out in the Striking Mums explanation, mind you, I have pink hair and a penchant for slightly offbeat stuff, so go figure!

I am a mum (all of the time!), but I am also a lot of other things and I have a lot of skills that I really don't give myself credit for. This post is about me, not my mental health or the three fellas in my life. 

I'm a great cook, my baking is reasonable enough and I love cooking. As a mum of two, I do not find time to cook proper meals enough (ever). I'm sure that this will improve as time goes on and we share mealtimes (rather than the boys eating at 5 and us eating at 7). 

I have a number of childrens' picture books memorised. It's brilliant, I used to recite 'Peepo' by Alan Ahlberg to N when he was tiny, and it used to calm him down when he had worked himself into a lather. 

I'm a staunch feminist: women deserve equal footing in the world, I am grateful for what I have, as a woman in the UK. I am grateful to have a career, to have an amazing husband and to have my children. However, I believe that the battle isn't own until girls can safely get home after a night out without fear of predatory men and that countries where women are oppressed have a great deal of work to do - women are about half of the population, and we do 99% of the work towards procreation. 
Feminism : Credit where credit is due. 

This week, I have been proactive and texted 2 friends who I have put off seeing while I have been ill. This will be brilliant for my self confidence and for rebuilding my social circle and support network. 

Kate on thin Ice Striking Mums

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Learning to Let Go

In the last couple of weeks, I've realised that I am a control freak when it comes to the boys. Everything has to be done my way, clothes, meals, everything. No one does things the way that I like them. Fact. My husband can never win:

'Weigh the pasta out'
'Put it in that pan'
'I want them to have more fruit and vegetables, you don't give them fruit and vegetables'
'I can't trust you to follow my very specific routine for everything'

Do you get the picture? It must be awful to live with. 

What's even worse, is that I assumed that this level of needing-to-be-in-control was normal. Then a comment on my Facebook PND-coming-out status hit a little bit too close to home. 

So, I'm not quite like this friend, but no matter how tired I am, how much I'm struggling I cannot let go of the motherly obsessions. Calcium, veg, fruit, TV, exercise, routines, sleep... Exact method for applying sudocrem (MrB still calls it sudo-cream, it drives me nuts!). 

Anyway, so the biggest step is realising that you actually have a problem, yeah? Well this is a big problem, I think it must drive MrB mad, it makes me snippy, it makes me nit pick and I need to stop for the sake of actually being kind to MrB. 

Do you have any hints for stopping being such a control freak?

I'm probably just going to have to learn to stop myself in my tracks - when MrB wants to give PomBear and crackers for a snack, I should just walk away and let him do as he wishes. I will be trying to do this in the next few days and let's see how we go!